How to Paint in Oil

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You don't need to be a bearded European artist to use a palette. Be sure that it's large enough for what you're doing, though. You want plenty of room to mix colors and "spread out" on the palette without feeling crowded. Need a reminder on the best ways to mix oil paint? We've gotchu. A good rule of thumb is to have a palette space that is about half the size of your finished canvas. When you're ready to paint in oil, you'll need something to paint on.

As long as you prime your surface with gesso, you can actually use just about anything. Some painters prefer to do their "sketch" in paint directly on the work surface, but others prefer pencil for mapping out shapes. Because oil paint is opaque, you can use a soft, broad-tipped pencil such as a charcoal pencil and then paint right over it with no harm done. Many, but not all artists, prefer to paint with an easel.

Alla Prima: Tips on Mastering Immediate and Fresh Oil Painting Technique

It's not required, but it may help you from hunching while you paint. If you're just getting started, try to find one secondhand or an inexpensive tabletop option.

The real deal can be expensive, so make sure this hobby sticks before investing. It's inevitable that you'll get spotted with paint at some time or another. So don't wear anything that you don't want to start looking "artistic" when you are painting with oils! You've been warned. Inbox Inspiration! Get weekly updates, articles, and inspiration. As a general rule, the lighter the color, the more white you will use.

The more white you use, the thicker your paint will be. The thicker your paint will be, the more it will cover the paint that is underneath.

An Art Teacher’s Guide to Using Oil Paint in the Classroom

If you paint dark to light with wet paint, you will have to pile your paint on thickly to cover what is underneath. However, it would still mean having to go thicker. You control these subtle varieties in tone through the thickness of your paint. That goes beyond the scope of this article though, but I do show you how to do this in my 7 Video Instruction Series.

How to Paint a Portrait in Oil - Part 1 of 5 | will kemp art school

For example, look at the robe…on the right side of the picture where the left shoulder of the subject would be, under the robe there is a bright white light area. It is a pasty white that is applied like putty.


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If someone worked the other way around and applied the light thinly first and then the darks thicker, you would have these pasty darks, the application of paint would be next to impossible or you would be following more of a watercolor technique. One of the fundamental characteristics of an oil painting is that the paint has body to it. It covers what is underneath it. If you would like to see videos of how to do this, my 7 Video Instruction Series is recommended. Since these are quite dark, not much white is needed in that mixture therefore the paint with the most body — the thick lead white paint the old masters used — is not there so the paint is not thick.

Coincidentally, they are also some of the areas with the thickest paint of the entire picture. The thick parts of the forehead that convey a slightly furrowed brow — they are a putty like paint, with much white. The highlight on the lips, same putty like paint and thick. The light brush mark on the robe that the arrow points to goes right over the slightly yellower, darker colors of the robe — and of course, has to be thicker to cover it well. There are plenty of examples of very thick dark accents, but like most things, this is a generalization.

But, if you are mixing paint on your palette and you are going from the dark mixtures to the light mixtures your paint will naturally become thicker because of the addition of white as you go lighter. Here is a landscape painting I did that really does follow the traditional procedure of painting dark to light. The darker parts of just about everything were put in first, with the lights being built up gradually.

The lighter something is, the thicker the paint was applied to cover what was beneath. Here is a detail image of that painting with arrows I added to point out some key elements that I hope will show you the use of painting dark to light. You see those 3 red arrows? They point to the light parts of the painting — 3 different objects, but all created by applying thicker, lighter color, over darker paint. The light parts of the trees meant going lighter than the dark green of the shadow parts of the trees, so I had to go thicker to cover the dark and the mixture contained more white paint.

The building and a shine of bright sunlight hitting it in certain spots.

These very light areas are applied much bodied paint, thick enough to cover the darker parts of the building, created with thinner paint. What part of that apple do I paint first?

01. Hold the paintbrush in the right place!

Not the darkest darks, at least not for the way I teach. Eventually ending with the even lighter parts of the light and the highlight. Same with your painting of Jim. Although what I explained above is, I believe, the most common thought of notion when talking about painting dark to light, I believe what I am about to tell you know is really where the saying originated from.

The old masters did not paint on a white ground. Yes, the base was probably a bright white, which is ultra smart to do, but before painting their actual picture they toned this ground. You may hear this toning layer called varying things. The traditional greee-zeye is made with black and white and of course the traditional greee-zeye is what we are after. All that brown is the blank canvas. Not the very darkest darks, but dark nonetheless. He brings his figures out of this darkness with, what is known as an optical gray by using his white paint.

The lighter he wants to go the thicker he has painted to cover the original brown toning layer. There are parts of the figures that are barely covered with any paint at all as the brown toning layer plays a role in creating the figures. You get better results by taking it down and laying it flat. Doing so also allows brush marks to level out. Tap out the hinge pins with a hammer and screwdriver and take the door down. Remove the hinges, doorknob, deadbolt and any other hardware on the door with a screwdriver. Lay the door on a pair of sawhorses in a protected area. Cover any windows with masking tape and masking paper.

How to paint flowers, steps to get started

Scrape off any loose paint with a paint scraper. Fill holes and gouges with wood putty. When the putty is dry, sand both sides of the door with a palm sander and grit sandpaper to smooth the existing finish and prepare it for new paint.